The highlands of Chiapas are smoldering with death.
In the winter of 1997, paramilitary agents ambushed and killed many Mayan villagers in Acteal, Chiapas. Gifted writer Juan Felipe Herrera has composed a stirring poem sequence—published in a bilingual format—written in response and homage to those who died, as well as to all those who call for peace and justice in the Mexican highlands and throughout the Americas.
Thunderweavers is a story of violent displacements in the lives of the most impoverished residents of southern Mexico, the Tzotzil Tzeltal campesinos. It deals with the destruction of a people and all evidence of their lives:
Why am I Tzotzil?
Why was I born in this land of so many storms?
I plant corn and yet I reap gunpowder
I plant coffee and yet I reap mad spirits
I plant my house and yet I reap the viscera
of this fallen earth.
The sections are written in the voices of four women from a family in Chiapas: Xunka, a lost twelve-year-old girl; Pascuala, the mother; grandmother Maruch; and Makal, an older daughter who is pregnant. Each voice weaves into the others and speaks for still other members of the larger Mayan and Native American family.
Herrera, a major Chicano poet known for his expansive, surreal writing, here takes on a spare and lyrical style in the tradition of Rosario Castellanos, recalling as well the canto legacy of Pablo Neruda and the testimonial call of Ernesto Cardenal. Thunderweavers is a poetic account of transcendence and continuity in the midst of chaos, suffering, and war—a Mayan cycle of personal, physical, and spiritual struggles that Indian women have been continuously engaged in for the past five hundred years.